Maidenhair Fern

Add tropical flair to your garden even in winter with this fern, or try it as a houseplant.

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With its feathery green foliage, maidenhair fern makes a graceful addition to shade gardens or areas of the home that offer it plenty of humidity and diffused light. Make the commitment to providing this plant the living conditions it requires and you'll be rewarded with a specimen that enhances the landscape or brings the beauty of nature indoors.

Maidenhair Fern Overview

Genus Name Adiantum
Common Name Maidenhair Fern
Plant Type Houseplant, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 2 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Special Features Good for Containers
Zones 10, 11, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division
Problem Solvers Groundcover
maidenhair fern close up
Rick Taylor.

Colorful Combinations

Surprisingly, many types of maidenhair ferns— a delicate, tropical-looking plant—are winter hardy; some are even native to the United States. No matter which species you grow, all maidenhair ferns feature light green compound leaves made up of small leaflets. Several species and varieties bear new growth in pink or red that eventually ages to green. Most maidenhair ferns sport striking shiny black leaf stalks (petioles) that stand out against all the green foliage.

Maidenhair Care Must-Knows

In their native habitats, all types of maidenhair ferns are quite vigorous and spread by branched rhizomes beneath the soil. For example, perennial species of maidenhair ferns grow in cool, humid areas such as near shady streams. This can be a tricky habitat to recreate in a home setting. Just keep in mind that ferns like organically rich, well-drained, moisture-retentive soils. Amend your garden soil, if needed, with compost and organic matter. Don't let maidenhair ferns dry out, or they'll die back and go dormant.

It's also important to keep this fern sheltered because its delicate leaves can quickly burn and dry out with too much sun. Plant it in a shady location where any direct sun (if it's a factor) reaches the plant only early in the morning when its rays are less intense. For a visual treat, plant maidenhair fern atop a rock wall where its graceful foliage can spill over the edge.

Take special care when growing all types of maidenhair fern indoors, because home environments are often too dry for this plant. Consistently moist but well-drained potting soil is a must to replicate the plant's natural habitat in humus-rich woodlands. Growing this fern beneath a cloche or in a terrarium may solve the humidity problem. But keep the fern out of direct sun, or you risk cooking it within the enclosed environment.

In addition to or in place of daily misting, you may want to place a saucer filled with pebbles beneath the potted plant. Fill the saucer with water to just below the top of the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it creates a humid microclimate around the plant. Avoid sitting the pot near heat registers, cooling vents, or in drafty areas. Don't overwater; saturated soil may lead to stem or root rot. And never let the roots dry out, or the plant may shrivel up and go dormant or die.

More Varieties of Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum raddianum

Adiantum raddianum
Denny Schrock

Adiantum raddianum is the classic houseplant maidenhair fern. These have delicate, drooping foliage and need high humidity to survive. Zones 10-11.

Northern Maidenhair fern

Northern maidenhair fern
Matthew Benson

Adiantum pedatum aleuticum, at 30 inches tall, is larger than American maidenhair fern. It has black stems. New growth may be tinged pink. Zones 3-8.

American Maidenhair Fern

American maidenhair fern
Clint Farlinger

Adiantum pedatum is native to North America and bears upright black or brown stalks with featherlike medium green fronds. It grows 12-16 inches tall. Zones 3-8.

Southern Maidenhair Fern

Southern maidenhair fern
Marty Baldwin

Adiantum capillus-venerus has fan-shaped leaflets on black stems. It is hardy only in Zones 8-10 and remains evergreen down to about 28 degrees F.

Maidenhair Fern Companion Plants


purple lungwort pulmonaria perennial flowers
David McDonald

In early spring, lungwort's brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, are handsome through the season and into winter. Lungworts are workhorses and retain their good looks, placed close as a weed-discouraging groundcover or in borders as edgings or bright accent plants. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungwort tolerates dry conditions, be alert for mildew.


Julie Maris Semarco

This plant, hardly grown 40 years ago, is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. Hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners—it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall.

Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shaped leaves almost 2 feet long. The leaves can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged—the variations are virtually endless.

Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features appear each year. This rugged, shade-loving perennial, also known as plantain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.


Yellow corydalis
Stephen Cridland

It's hard to find bright-colored plants for shade, so it's a puzzle that brightly colored corydalis isn't more widely planted. It's a great shade plant. Blooms are small, but they appear in clusters. Leaves look similar to those of a fringe-leaf bleeding heart. Plants self-seed readily, but excess seedlings are easy to remove. Provide the plant with moist, organic soil for best growth.

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